Digital transformation in healthcare

Digital transformation has been a buzzword that’s bandied about in boardrooms for some time now. It’s a process that, for many, has held the key to improving efficiency and meeting changing customer and market expectations.

But today, digital transformation represents more than just a buzzword or an ideal; it’s no longer considered a ‘nice-to-have’. No, it’s about turning this buzzword into a reality. A failure to do so risks being left behind and becoming irrelevant.

In no industry is this more so the case than in healthcare.

There’s no denying that the Covid-19 pandemic permanently changed our world forever; it’s redefined how we work, how we travel, and exposed flaws in our food supply. But it has also accelerated digital adoption in the healthcare industry, and as such, revised what consumers are prioritising when it comes to care.

Consumers these days value convenience and access to care above everything else, and widespread digitisation is the way to make this possible.

Why digital transformation matters in healthcare

In any given sector, digital transformation can help:

  • Deliver greater efficiency
  • Eliminate human error
  • Enhance user experience
  • Achieve faster times to market
  • Empower staff

In the context of healthcare, all of these benefits can be boiled down to the difference between life and death.

Over the last decade, there have been rapid advancements in digital healthcare, with providers and settings introducing initiatives to improve patient care. From installing electronic health record (EHR) systems to embracing new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the ultimate goal has been to improve clinical outcomes for patients.

Although adoption within the sector has traditionally been slow due to lack of funding and regulatory restrictions, the pandemic changed all of this.

The pandemic acted as a stimulus to embrace digital health solutions. Action is now needed to maintain the progress that’s been made.

Where lack of funding and risk aversion once prevented providers from adopting digital practices, technology is now being used to mitigate and lessen the effects of these problems.

Clinical outcomes and patient safety

The primary purpose of introducing digital technology in a healthcare setting is to improve clinical outcomes and patient safety, which means catering to the digital patient experience.

Healthcare facilities and clinical staff are under constant pressure to be compliant, create new efficiencies and cost savings, all while improving the level of care they deliver to patients. But they can’t do this alone.

Digital technology allows them to build consistency across the services they offer.

These new digital ways of working reduce the need to focus on labour-intensive, manual processes like recording data. This not only frees clinical staff up to focus on administering a more patient-centric care model but it also reduces the chances of human error affecting a patient’s course of treatment.

As data recording can now be automated and recorded with more precision, patients benefit from gaining access to the right course of treatment when they need it most.

Not only is this access to data helping to expedite the development of new drugs, but it’s also helping to detect problems before they even start to show, in a more personalised way.

As more digital health solutions enter the sector, staff will have greater access to tools that can assist them in detecting, treating and managing diseases. Instead of patients having to attend regular check-ups in person, physicians can review patient data remotely and schedule a visit to the hospital or their practice if there is need to do so.

On-demand care

Today’s consumers demand convenience. Whether it’s watching content on demand through a subscription service or next day delivery with Amazon Prime, they expect and value convenience – and this extends to healthcare too.

During the uncertainty of disease transmission and lockdown restrictions, telehealth services went from elective to mandatory practically overnight. But as we’ve emerged from the shackles of lockdown, this initial adjustment to adapt to unprecedented circumstances looks set to stay.

Not only does virtual healthcare allow patients to receive real-time care without the risk of spreading infection, but it also levels the playing field for those living with mobility issues or in isolated communities. Through the use of digital, patients have immediate access to the care they need from the comfort of their own home.

It goes without saying that telehealth will never replace urgent care, but this innovation will help streamline care going forward and allow patients to juggle it with their busy schedules.

This rise of on-demand care can also help plug gaps in the market for skilled physicians.

Much in the same way that the gig economy operates, doctors can begin to deal directly with healthcare facilities to fulfil roles on a short-term basis, as and when they are needed. This means that patients in remote or underserved locations can benefit from a more consistent level of care, with technology granting providers access to the expertise they require.

Staff engagement

Healthcare staff are notoriously overworked and underpaid. The effects of this can be devastating on the morale of the people we entrust to look after our most vulnerable.

Digital transformation isn’t some sort of magic money tree, but it can help reduce the burden on staff and enhance engagement levels among them.

Successful digital adoption hinges on gaining buy-in from staff at every level; without this, digital transformation will be destined to fail before it has even started. Rather than simply dictating changes in their everyday workflow, it’s wise to involve frontline staff in the delivery of new digital processes and procedures.

Frontline staff are likely to hold the most telling insights about how digital implementation will impact them, the service they provide and the patients they serve. By involving staff early on, organisations can avoid making costly mistakes and benefit from increased engagement among the people who will ultimately drive these changes.

The whole point of going digital from a staff perspective should be to improve the quality of care they are able to provide and to eliminate aspects of their job which frustrate them.

Yes, technology has the power to automate mundane and tedious tasks, but it can also assist with scheduling issues, which can ease the pressure placed on staff.

Machine-learning algorithms have the capability to predict procedure and recovery durations more accurately, which means more informed decisions can be made about bed capacity. These algorithms can also predict absenteeism rates among clinical staff, which means organisations can better pre-empt when they’ll need access to more staff to cope with demand.

Digital technology will never be an adequate substitute for human-led care, but when used in conjunction with humans, it can have a transformative effect.

Growing cybersecurity threats

The impact of digital transformation across healthcare cannot be underestimated. It will ensure patients have on-demand access to their preferred provider, helping to improve the overall quality of care whilst reducing operational costs.

However, with these many upsides to embracing digital adoption, there is one major concern that healthcare providers should be wary of, and that is cyberattacks.

Because of the large amount of personal information providers hold, that has high monetary value, they are more likely to be targeted by cyberattacks. Unfortunately, this is just a fact of life.

Threats to cybersecurity are one of the single biggest challenges that healthcare operators will face in response to increased digital adoption. They need to be vigilant of this threat and take proactive steps to prevent large amounts of personal data being used for ransomware attacks.

Today’s consumers are more conscious of the threat that cyberattacks pose to privacy and security, and they won’t settle for below par responses. In order to gain their trust and benefit from their continued support, organisations need to demonstrate that they take the protection of their data as seriously as they take protecting their lives.

Does your organisation need help driving digital adoption?

At 6B, we have a wealth of experience partnering with NHS trusts and private healthcare providers, transforming the way they operate through digital transformation. From enabling interoperability between disparate systems to streamlining the recording of patient data, the digital processes we implement can deliver now and in the future for your patients.

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